Thursday, 30 June 2011

Join the Social Revolution

Well, as much as we hate social networking, it seems that Google loves it.

Specifically, Google's latest indexing algorithm attributes more importance to incoming links from social networking sites, particularly Facebook.

So while we've been avoiding it for some time, we've set up a Facebook page:

Now, don't get excited. We're not looking for friends, or to play games, or for any other tat that proliferates in social networking.

However, if you would be so kind as to 'like' our page, and we get 25 people to like it, we get our very own page name! Ooooohhhh!

And that means better search engine something or other, according to the experts.

You can also just visit our main site

and click the 'like' button in the top right. And while you're at it, give us a Google "+1".

Thank you!!

Monday, 27 June 2011

How to Get Published

Well, maybe not. How to get a publisher to take you seriously, at least.

Here's another submission email from an author (Just the first paragraph, the full email is very long):

Please forgive me if I am not following your existing submission rules, but by some reason I could not find them. Maybe by my indolence, mostly. I hope that even I did not follow them and you are likely overloaded by similar freaks like me you will find time to review my proposition.

Spot the problem?

The writer (a poet) has used words like 'forgive', 'indolence', 'freaks' etc. These are not good words to use. Let me explain why.

When you ask someone to like your poetry or come to your poetry reading, you might call yourself a freak and it might be funny for some people.

When you ask a publisher to invest in you, you are asking them to make a business decision. It is not easy to work with someone who puts themselves down, and it does not give a publisher faith or confidence in you if you do not show confidence in yourself.

Don't apologise. Submission guidelines are here for the publisher's benefit. It saves us having to ask the same questions every time someone sends a 'best selling' manuscript. But what we need is a solid reason to make a business investment. Whether we like something, personally, does not make a big difference. What is important is that we feel something will sell. Publishers are experts at getting a product to market, and that product is not your poetry, it is YOU.

So my advice is, before you contact publishers, think about your email or letter and show that you have confidence in yourself. Not arrogance, it does not help when an author offers us a book and says it is a guaranteed best seller because it's fantastic.

What is very important to remember is that the question of how good the book is really makes no difference to how well it will sell. You might think your book, or poems, are wonderful. Your friends might. Even we might like them. But the issues you must address are:

How well do people really know you? (Your name must sell the book)

What are you doing to promote yourself and your work?

Do you take your work seriously? (The writer's words suggest that he would like to but does not)

Remember, when you contact a publisher, you are not asking them to like your book. I can like your book without wanting to invest in you as an author.

The bottom line with any investor is that we want to know, "Will this investment show a return?"

And the answer doesn't lie within your books pages, it is within you.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Spam, Scams and online Cons

Spam really does get everywhere. As a publisher, we receive many unsolicited submissions from authors. One of the most persistent is a guy claiming that he invented Post-It notes and that his book follows the story of how 3M ripped off his life's work. Right. Unfortunately, the story of Post-It notes is well documented.

Here's another example that arrived today:

To Whom It May Concern:

Hi, my name is Jack Steele, my story is that I was recruited by the Justice Department for over two years to infiltrate a group in order to capture one of Americas 10 most wanted killers. An article was written in the New York magazine by Robert Kolker titled Mercenary For Justice documenting my journey leading to his arrest.  If you are interested in my story, please email at, or by telephone number 561-594-2281.

Thank you in advance.

Jack Steele

Sounds great! Exciting!

Where's the outline? Where's the connection between the author's name and the email address?

The article referred to is genuine;

But is the person in the article in Palm Beach, Florida, where the phone number appears to point to?

So why the suspicion?

If you were an author, wouldn't you put a link to the article? Would you include at least some outline of the book or a sample chapter?

Spam, scams and con tricks are everywhere, unfortunately.

Monday, 13 June 2011

What Do You Get When You Cross Twitter With an iPad?

A fantastic new step forward in the integration of mobile computing platforms and social networks?

Or a dark day for your privacy?

Apple and Twitter have said that they are collaborating to incorporate Twitter into iOs, the operating system for iPads, iPhones, iPods etc.

What does this mean? You can use Twitter on your iPad now? What's the big deal?

Do you have a desktop or laptop computer? Perhaps a Mac? Or Linux? Or if you're unlucky, Windows?

Your computer has a bunch of programs on it, and most of them share some common functions. They can print. They can access the Internet. There's no point in each software vendor figuring out how to make a program print; it's one of the things that your operating system or OS does for them. So the program designer sends a file to the printer library, and a short while later, you're another step closer to having to buy more ink that costs more than the printer did in the first place.

Integrating Twitter into the OS doesn't just mean that there will be a special program or 'app' for reading and writing Twitter feeds. That's already there.

No, integrating Twitter into the OS means that it is there for all apps to use, whether you know about it or not.

Imagine, you get a new high score on Angry Birds, and the app tells you that your best friend just beat you.

How? The app 'Tweeted' your high score, and their app Tweeted back. But the Tweet wasn't a private conversation between the two of you, it was available for anyone to see.

Do you really want your iPad doing even more behind your back? Apple's view of user privacy is already, "You bought an iPad, therefore all your data now belongs to us. We call it an 'enhanced user experience'. You call it an invasion of your privacy. If you don't like it, don't buy an iPad."

Do you want your iPad telling the world where you are? Or what website you just visited? Do you want it sending emails on your behalf based on a special offer from a store you just visited? Do you want Google maps to show you, in real time, where all your friends are right now?

After all, you might find out something you wish you hadn't. Like one of them is round your house, right now. And they're not playing Angry Birds.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

The Changing Face of the Book

Have you noticed that book covers have changed?

The predominance of cover 'art' is being replaced by a new design goal; big and bold.

Is this to make books stand out on book shelves more?

Not really.

Cover art, complex designs, small or script titling, even subtle photographs are perfect for when the reader picks up the book before choosing to buy it; at an airport book shop, typically.

But these kinds of covers are next to useless, illegible, in the place that most people will see the book - on a web page.

Huge, clear, colourful text with a title that fills the entire front of the book, simple geometric designs and high contrast covers are the order of the day.

In the 'flesh', they might look garish but as a thumbnail image on a web page, they are competing with the site's own branding and adverts.

The Internet has led to many changes in design philosophy in all kinds of areas; writing, graphic design, user functionality, and so book cover design is simply one more area that the Internet is now influencing.

So remember, don't judge a book by its cover.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Unbound: A Threat to Publishers?

According to The Bookseller, the new self publishing service, Unbound, is the beginning of the end of traditional publishing, or at least a business model that will accelerate the demise of the printed book. Or the ebook. Or neither.

The Bookseller says, "Unbound, a publishing platform that allows readers to choose what is published, was devised as a response to the “difficulties of the existing publishing model”, with the programme aiming to get 35 to 40 projects off the ground in its first year."

Here's the idea; instead of self-publishing, you pitch your book idea to a social network of readers. If they like the idea, they invest in it to cover the publishing costs. In return, they get anything from a 'goodie bag' to lunch with the author.

If an investor puts in more than £1,000, they might get a royalty share of book sales too.

Whhooooaa! £1,000? How much are they saying it costs to publish a book?

Oh, of course, I forgot. We're talking about a traditional publishing house trying to muscle in on the ebook and self-publishing market.

"Supported by Faber, the platform was created by “QI” writers John Mitchinson and John Pollard, and Crap Towns author Dan Kieran. Authors are required to pitch their idea to readers on the site, and have 50 days to attract support through readers pledging money to fund the publication of the work. If enough money is pledged, the work will be published, primarily as an e-book or “beautifully bound, limited edition hardback”, or both, with each pledger’s name inscribed in the back of the print edition."

In the old days, there were publishers and there were vanity publishers. A publisher buys the licence to print your book and in return pays you a pittance of a royalty. They use your book to market their business, and if they really go to town on marketing, you make some money. But not nearly as much as the publisher, and quite rightly so, because they've done all the hard work in marketing and getting your book onto the shelves. Which they control.

Vanity publishers just charged you to print your book for you.

So, an aspiring author had two choices; take their manuscript around all the publishing houses, facing rejection, or pay to see their book in print.

In today's world of ebooks and print on demand, anyone can get their work into circulation for a very small amount of money, but, is it any good? And will it sell?

Today's author is faced with the choice of taking their manuscript to the traditional publishing houses, as before, self-publishing and now, getting the readers to buy the book in a limited print run before it's even written.

"As The Bookseller went to press, of the five ideas currently on the [Unbound] site, author Terry Jones’ idea for “a darkly funny set of linked tales” had received 2% of its required funding, while Gavin Pretor-Pinney’s idea, an iPad version of his book The Cloudspotter’s Guide, was still on 0%."

We presume they're both well known authors, so these figures either show that the Unbound concept is in its infancy, or it's a silly idea.

As a business model, it is very similar to the 'micro loans' concept that hit the headlines a few years ago. The idea was that I go to a website and post a request for some money, then some other people offer to lend me various amounts which together give me what I need. I then pay them back, through the website. Each micro investor makes a return, I get a loan, the website makes a profit off the top.

Unbound is not a new concept in publishing, it is a simple and blatant attempt by an existing publishing house to shuffle the risk around - so that it lands anywhere but at their door.